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Ollie Robinson hoping to emulate Andrew Flintoff as he looks to make Ashes mark on Australia return

·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Ollie Robinson’s first summer of Test cricket – and his experience in Australia – makes a compelling case for an Ashes debut in Brisbane on Wednesday.

In five Tests, the 28-year-old has 28 wickets at an average of 19.6 – even better than his superb first-class average of 21.03 (311 wickets) – and he shone for England Lions down under two winters ago. Just before the pandemic, on a tour England considered key for preparation and planning for this Ashes series, Robinson took seven for 147 in the only first-class match, against Australia. Justin Langer, Australia’s coach, describes him as “a real handful”.

If Robinson does get the nod, walking out at the Gabba will be an ‘emotional’ experience, for three reasons.

First, because it is 15 years since, aged 13, he travelled to Australia to watch the Ashes with his family, an experience that crystallised his desire to play for England. Second, because that is not the only time Australia has been a formative country for him. And, finally, because when he finally did reach Test level, he feared he had thrown it all away because of the offensive tweets that emerged while he was on the field on his very first day.

Cast your mind back six months, to Lord’s, where Robinson had an excellent opening day as a Test cricketer – until he left the field, that is. When he did, he learned that the world had not been talking about the wickets he took (seven in the match), but tweets he had sent a decade early. They were racist, sexist, the lot.

“I didn’t think at one stage I was going to be playing for England again,” Robinson reflects. “So it’s been quite a rollercoaster over the last six to eight months and to be here and be with the team, it’s quite an emotional time for me.”

Robinson’s indiscretions have been in sharper focus in recent weeks, as the Yorkshire racism revelations swamped the game.

“I think since the situation in the summer, I’ve learned a lot and worked on myself as a person a lot,” he said.

“We’re getting a lot of information about the things we should be doing and how we can better ourselves as people. And that’s all I’ve been trying to do since the summer really, making sure that I better myself as a person and make sure people that come after me don’t make the same mistakes I did.”

Australia has gone a long way to shaping Robinson. There were his trips in 2006/07 and 2020, but also spells in grade cricket with Sydney Tigers CC and St George, where he played with Josh Hazlewood.

“My times in Australia were really great,” he says. “Sydney first and then St George, with Josh Hazlewood and Trent Copeland.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“When I came my second time at St George I really spoke to them in depth about how they bowled in Australia.

“I was actually a professional cricketer the second time out. So I knew that I was trying to make it at a higher level and any information they could give me would help.”

Time in Australia has contributed to his mouthy method (although he jokes that “Aussie chat is pretty horrendous”), and he expects to stick to his guns in the white heat of Ashes battle.

“I don’t think me as a person could keep my head down if I tried,” he says. “I’m definitely going to be trying to get under their skins and try and unsettle them as it were, batters and bowlers really.

“If I can get them off their rhythm then we’re winning, so it’s something you’ll definitely see and hopefully we will come out on top.”

And the Lions experience? “That taught me a lot of discipline,” he says. “You have to be fitter out here, stronger and use the crease a bit more to create the angles and the movement.”

Of his fitness, Robinson said he did not feel better at any stage of the summer than before the eventually cancelled final Test against India, and is ready for the rigours of his first five-match series.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It was 2006, though, that perhaps made the greatest impression on Robinson, as he was afforded the trip of a lifetime that involved missing school. He attended the Tests in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, where Andrew Flintoff’s batting made a lasting impression, despite England’s whitewash.

“I had a four-week Christmas holiday and I ended up missing a couple of days either side of that to make it a five or six week trip,” he says. “That was pretty special and it was lucky to be here.

“There were moments in that series that I remember, I think Freddie got 80 one day and I remember thinking he just took it to the Aussies and growing up that’s what I wanted to do and how I wanted to play my cricket.

“It’s massively inspiring to watch that as a youngster and now hopefully try and emulate Flintoff and how other players went about it as well.”

On Wednesday, that opportunity arrives.

Read More

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Ashes 2021: Australia coach Justin Langer hopes Tim Paine could return to Test cricket

The Ashes: Ben Stokes delivers early warning to Australia that he is ready to play major role for England

Ben Stokes stars with the bat as England complete rain-wrecked Ashes match preparation in Brisbane

England confident they can ‘do something special’ and upset Ashes favourites Australia despite limited warm-up

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